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Grenfell Survivors Facing Universal Credit Roll-Out Just Days Before Christmas


Grenfell Tower survivors face being forced onto the Government’s controversial Universal Credit just days before Christmas, HuffPost UK can reveal.

The planned roll-out of the Tories’ flagship welfare policy to west London was postponed in the immediate aftermath of the blaze that killed 72 people and left hundreds homeless last year.

But North Kensington Job Centre, which serves postcodes including the site of the fire-gutted tower block, will start introducing the new system from December 12, according to Whitehall documents quietly released on Budget day.

Universal Credit, which combines six different benefits, has been plagued by problems and yet another report last week suggested its introduction led to a rise in food bank use and other key poverty indicators.

With several of the Grenfell survivors relying on in-work and out-of-work benefits, any change in their family or work circumstances will mean they will automatically be put onto Universal Credit.

Anyone who makes a new claim for housing benefit, income support, child tax credits or jobseekers’ allowance would also have to go onto the heavily-criticised system.

Kensington and Chelsea MP Emma Dent Coad told HuffPost UK she was “dreading” the impact of the roll-out.

Veteran MP Frank Field said he feared local people could be “left destitute over Christmas” and urged Work and Pensions Secretary Esther McVey to halt the roll-out until she could guarantee no-one would be left out of pocket.

Universal Credit had been due to be introduced to north Kensington in July 2017, a month after the fire.

But the plan was postponed to give local job centre staff more time to focus on providing “extra support” for those affected.

At the time, the Department for Work and Pensions said “the priority is to make sure people affected by the Grenfell fire get the help they need”.

The Government also exempted local claimants from unemployment benefit rules following worries that Grenfell survivors could be sanctioned for failing to look for work.

A new updated set of regulations, published by the DWP on the day of the Budget on Monday, reveals that a ‘commencement order’ is now in place to start the system in London postcodes W8, W10 and W11.

“The roll-out of Universal Credit full service in postcode areas administered by North Kensington Jobcentre will now take place from 12 December 2018,” the regulations state.

Local people already on tax credits, housing benefit and other benefits won’t have to transfer to Universal Credit until a later date. But if their childcare or working hours change, they will automatically transfer to the new system.

The Chancellor used his Budget to unveil a £2.7bn package of measures to alleviate the impact of Universal Credit, following fears from Tory grandees and backbench MPs that it could turn into a new “poll tax” for the party.

Culled from Huffington Post

My view: They have spent billions implementing it and it is a total disaster.